15 May 2010

Ten Tips for Setting Goals

Greetings everyone! I'm starting a new feature to the blog, and hope you'll come to enjoy my new Saturday Specials. For the next few weeks, I'll be reintroducing a few articles that some may have seen on other blogs, while I put together fresh articles. So, in the meantime, sit back and enjoy this tidbit on goal-setting...

Does it ever seem like you can never get anything done when it comes to your writing? Weeks or months go by with nothing to show for it? Ever wonder why you never seem to have the time to write?

Perhaps it would help to set goals.

Those who've visited my regular blog already know that I'm a strong proponent of setting goals, and post sets of weekly goals every Tuesday along with a recap of where I ended up on last week's goals. I check my blog daily, so I have a constant reminder each day of what it is I'm supposed to be working toward.

I also post a set of monthly goals at several writers' sites I frequent, and post updates on those periodically (usually every week or so).

The reason is simple: constant reminders of where I'm at and where I need to be serve as motivation, and give direction on what I should be working on. If one of my goals for the week is already finished, I can move on to another.

So, if you haven't been setting goals (or even if you have), here are ten tips:

1. Break your major goals down to the lowest level possible.

What is your major writing goal? Finish your novel? Get an agent? Publish a story in a major magazine?

Break each of those down. For example, to finish your novel is going to require finishing a first draft, editing it, and polishing it. Start with the first draft and you'll need to generate around 80-120K words (or more, if you edit things down significantly). To do that, you'll have to generate so many words a day. I set goals based on chapters per week, but that's just me.

2. Set timeframes for your goals.

So, with your goals broken down, decide how quickly you want to get it done. Finish your novel in a year? 120K words? That breaks down to 10K words a month, which ends up being 2000-2500 words a week (and for you hard-core goal-setters, that's anywhere from 400-500 words a day, assuming you take the weekend off).

3. Make your goals achievable without being too simplistic.

Often, this will take some time to learn. If you've never set goals for yourself, start off small and see what happens. If you're hitting your goals every week/month with ease, set additional ones (or increase the amount you need to complete to reach your goal) to the point where it's actually an accomplishment.

If you're not able to hit your goals at all, then obviously you need to roll them back a bit. Maybe you aren't going to be able to hit 10K words in a month at first (even if you desperately want or need to). Try 5K. One of the tricks about goal-setting is, once you start rolling along, it becomes easier to hit your original goals, and that's when you start piling things on.

4. Post your goals where you'll see them daily.

Create a document and copy it to your desktop. Use it as your background image. Tape a printout (or hand-written copy) to the side of your monitor. Whatever you decide, make sure to put it where you'll see it and be reminded of what you've promised of yourself.

5. Check things off your list when you've finished.

Not only does this provide you with a sense of accomplishment on your journey, you'll also be giving yourself a visual indication of what you should be working on for the rest of the timeframe you've set up for yourself.

6. Celebrate your successes.

Finished your goals for the week? Take some time for yourself. Watch a movie. Read a book (which wouldn't work for me, because I put those on my goals from time to time). Go out to dinner with your significant other or your close friends.

7. Get together with other goal-setters and motivate each other.

This is one of the benefits of posting your goals on writers' sites. There's the double-benefit of being motivated by your fellow writers (by encouraging each other and congratulating your successes).

8. Don't get discouraged.

Sometimes you won't reach your goals. It happens. Just remember that even if you don't reach your end goals for the week or month, any amount of progress is going to get you farther than you were when you started. If you only get 6000 words each month (but desperately wanted 10K), that's still 72K words at the end of the year. And 72K words is a huge chunk of most novels.

9. Adjust your goals as necessary.

If you constantly miss your goals, lower the expectations (just as you should increase them if you hit them with ease all the time). There's no shame in it, and if it results in you being able to hit your goals in the future, you'll feel motivated and encouraged. As I mentioned before, goal-setting is a process. Once you get into the groove, things will become easier to accomplish.

10. Have fun.

Even though goals may seem all structured and calculated, have fun with them. Put other goals on there, such as reading a book or watching a movie. The most important part of setting goals is to motivate yourself on to achieve what YOU want. If you're not having fun, you won't want to do it.


T. M. Hunter has always had a fascination with interstellar travel, earning a B. S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Kansas. Twice a top ten finisher in the P&E Readers Poll for his short stories (2007, 2009), his book HEROES DIE YOUNG earned Champagne Books’ Best-Selling Book of 2008 award. FRIENDS IN DEED (January 2010) is his latest novel. For more information, including links to his published short stories and novels, please visit AstonWest.com. You can also find T. M. Hunter on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace as well.


  1. Nice column. I go with page goals rather than word count goals, since some pages can be more "wordy" than others. One thing I do to keep me going is to print out a simple calendar at the start of the year with "write 4 pages" on each day, six days a week. I write on that day how many pages I wrote. If I did research during my writing time, I put an 'R.' If I did a talk or something, I write that down. That seemed to help me get lots of works written.

  2. I used to set chapter goals per week or month, but found that my chapters would end up really short. :-)

    Thanks for stopping by!


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